A Travellerspoint blog

Easter Island

Hunting mysterious Moai


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After a 5 hour flight from Tahiti we arrived to Easter Island, our last stop in the Pacific. Politically, the island already belongs to South America, as it was annexed by Chile in 1888. But culturally, Rapa Nui, how the native inhabitants call it, is definitely a part of Polynesia. One thing that we came to like about our long trip is that it lets us see cultural and historical connections between different countries that would go unnoticed when visiting these places years apart. It was fascinating to see how the incredibly far away islands of Hawaii, Tahiti and Rapa Nui share a very similar language and similar cultural elements, like the ritual of giving Leis (flower necklaces). A testimony to the fact these islands were settled by the same peoples, who have then retained the same culture for hundreds of years.

We enjoyed the first evening on the island with a Pisco Sour, but there is, of course, exactly one reason why we and most everyone else decided to stop in Easter Island: Moai. We spent 5 days exploring the different locations where one could see Moai. The anthropomorphic statues were created as images of the inhabitant’s ancestors. The Easter Islanders worshipped their ancestors and hoped they would protect their island from the dangers of the ocean, which is why almost all Moai are facing towards the inside of the island and away from the sea. There is only one group of Moai, called the Seven Explorers, that is looking towards the ocean, as they were meant to traverse the Pacific Ocean in search of other civilizations.

Ahu Akivi (Seven Explorers)

Ahu Akivi (Seven Explorers)

The statues were carved out of volcanically hardened rock and they are from 3 to 10 meters tall. Some of them weight as much as 10 tones and until today, nobody knows exactly how these statues were transported from the place of their production to the various locations around the island. Some hypothesize that they were rolled on tree trunks, while others speculate some form of sledges was used to move the heavy load. It was truly fascinating to see these huge statues standing around, something that can be seen nowhere else on the planet.

Ahu Tongariki

Ahu Tongariki

Moai with red hat and painted eyeballs

Moai with red hat and painted eyeballs

3 groups of Moai facing away from the ocean

3 groups of Moai facing away from the ocean

Ahu Nau Nau

Ahu Nau Nau

The most stunning place on the island was Rano Raraku, the quarry where all Moai have been created before being transported to their final location. There were dozens of Moai in different states of construction standing or laying around on the slopes of this mountain. We were amazed by the amount of details that was still visible in the carvings of these statues. The only parts of the Moai that are not from here are the red hats that can be seen on some of their heads. These originate from another quarry far away, which we also visited.

Moai at Rano Raraku

Moai at Rano Raraku

Moai at Rano Raraku

Moai at Rano Raraku

Rano Raraku

Rano Raraku

Besides the Moai, the island is not particularly beautiful. We did a few hikes, but the landscape is for the most part very barren, a stark contrast to the dense vegetation we saw on all other Polynesian islands we visited. Legend has it that the Rapa Nui were once a prosperous civilization, but they used their resources in an unsustainable way, cutting the trees faster than they could grow back and overhunting the diverse fauna. This is said to have led to the fall of their civilization and to the state of the island as it is now. The few trees that can be seen today have all been planted in the last 50 years.

Sam on Easter Island's highest point, Maunga Terevaka

Sam on Easter Island's highest point, Maunga Terevaka

Rano Kau

Rano Kau

Anakena Beach

Anakena Beach

Ahu Tongariki with Peninsula Poke in the background

Ahu Tongariki with Peninsula Poke in the background

Overall, our 5 days on Easter Island were a good farewell to Polynesian culture and a great welcome to Chile. It was one of these unique places where two cultures mix and coexist peacefully and Hola! can be heard as often as Iorana!

"Do not step on Moai" sign

"Do not step on Moai" sign

Posted by samandmarta 08:11 Archived in Chile Comments (0)

Bora Bora

The halfway point of our journey


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A very scenic 25 minute flight brought us from Huahine to Bora Bora, the most famous island in French Polynesia. While approaching Bora Bora’s airport, we could already see the resort where we were going to stay for the next four nights. At the airport, we were once again greeted with a Lei and transferred to our resort by boat. Just when we were arriving, a wedding was happening there at the beach. Not a bad place to get married, although we doubt many friends would have come had we done ours here.

Raiatea from the plane

Raiatea from the plane

Bora Bora from the plane

Bora Bora from the plane

Sam on a boat

Sam on a boat

Wedding in our Bora Bora resort

Wedding in our Bora Bora resort

One of the most striking features of Bora Bora is Mount Otemanu, the 727 meter high peak of the island. Because our resort was located on a motu (small, sandy reef island surrounding an atoll) to the East of the main island, we had a perfect view of that jagged mountain. Especially the sunset view was fantastic and we usually admired it from the bar with a cocktail in hand.

Mount Otemanu in Bora Bora

Mount Otemanu in Bora Bora

Sunset behind Mount Otemanu

Sunset behind Mount Otemanu

There was plenty to keep us entertained for four days. We kayaked around the motu, swam and snorkeled in our resort lagoon and even tried stand-up-paddling, which was actually easier than we expected. While snorkeling, we saw, besides plenty of colorful fish, a moray eel and two sting rays. On our first evening at the resort, there was also a nice Polynesian dance and music show which was a lot of fun. However, our favorite part of the resort was the Turtle Center, an independent operation on the resort grounds that treats injured turtles. Everyday, guests of the resort had the opportunity to help feeding the turtles, which we did twice. We loved feeding Jordan, our favorite turtle who was there with kidney problems.

Marta with Polynesian dance performers

Marta with Polynesian dance performers

Marta feeding Jordan, the turtle

Marta feeding Jordan, the turtle

For the first two days, we stayed in a bungalow and for the last two in an overwater villa. This villa was much fancier and more modern than the one we had in Huahine. It even had a glass floor through which we could see the sea and the occasional fish passing by. We did not like it quite as much as our Huahine villa though, because the porch was much smaller, the water in front was less than a meter deep and it was less secluded and private. It was still a great experience though.

The porch of our overwater villa

The porch of our overwater villa

Inside of our overwater villa in Bora Bora, with Marta visible through the glass floor

Inside of our overwater villa in Bora Bora, with Marta visible through the glass floor

Bora Bora roughly marked the middle of our trip around the world. It was also the farthest point from home on our journey, over 16 thousand kilometers from Zurich. Together with Hawaii, it was the place with the largest time difference (11 hours). Therefore, our return to Switzerland is now closer than our departure and after six months of moving away from home, we now start to move towards it. We left Bora Bora for Tahiti on the 7th of January and spent a short night there. At the most inconvenient time of 3 in the morning of the next day we departed French Polynesia towards Easter Island.

Marta at the airport of Tahiti

Marta at the airport of Tahiti

Posted by samandmarta 04:36 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Huahine

Our first stay in an overwater villa


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After a six hour flight from Honolulu, we arrived in Tahiti, the main island of French Polynesia. A traditional Polynesian band played at the gate and it almost felt a bit like home, seeing a special line for EU and Swiss citizens at immigration. The host for our short stay in Faa’a picked us up at the airport and welcomed us with a Lei. Despite the fact that the official language in French Polynesia is French, we felt that the country is much more in touch with its Polynesian roots than Hawaii.

Early the next morning, we departed for Huahine, where we were going to spend four nights, including New Year’s Eve. Huahine is one of over 200 islands and atolls in the vast territory of French Polynesia. It is part of the Society Islands, a group of islands that are quite developed and easy to access. We chose Huahine because we wanted to experience staying in an overwater villa and we found a relatively affordable resort for this here. The resort was located in a small bay on the west side of the island, from where we could watch beautiful sunsets with the neighboring islands of Raiatea and Taha’a in the distance. We loved the fact that the resort was quite small and there were no other resorts around, which gave a very quiet and relaxed atmosphere.

Sunset from our overwater villa

Sunset from our overwater villa

Overwater villas at Sunset in Huahine

Overwater villas at Sunset in Huahine

Palm trees

Palm trees

We loved the experience of staying in an overwater villa. We had a large porch, with plenty of shade, which was great for relaxing and watching the sea. It felt so luxurious to be able to wake up in the morning, walk a few meters, and jump into the water for a swim. A few hundred meters out into the sea was a large protective reef, where we could see and hear the waves brake. Because of this, the water around our resort was calm like a lake and fantastic for swimming. In addition to that, there were beautiful corals all around the overwater villas and we enjoyed many hours snorkeling around them. We saw lots of colorful fish, but nothing larger than an arm.

Overwater villas in Huahine (ours is the rightmost one)

Overwater villas in Huahine (ours is the rightmost one)

Stairs to the water from our overwater villa in Huahine

Stairs to the water from our overwater villa in Huahine

Sam jumping into the water

Sam jumping into the water

Night sky from our porch in Huahine

Night sky from our porch in Huahine

Huahine from the plane

Huahine from the plane

We did not leave our resort a lot in those four days, there was plenty to do there like swimming, snorkeling or kayaking. Only on one day, we walked around the island for a bit. The island has some nice mountains and is extremely green. There are huge tropical plants everywhere. Technically, we visited French Polynesia in the wet season, but we were very lucky. Only on the day of our arrival to Huahine, we had rain in the morning. The rest of the time was sunny and dry.

Beach and overwater villas in Huahine

Beach and overwater villas in Huahine

Tropical flower

Tropical flower

Huahine landscape

Huahine landscape

Main street of Fare, Huahine

Main street of Fare, Huahine

Posted by samandmarta 16:57 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Happy New Year!

Best Wishes from Huahine, French Polynesia


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We wish all the readers of our blog a Happy New Year and lots of love, happiness, health and adventure for 2019.

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We had an exciting year 2018 and look forward to more adventures in the new year on the Southern Hemisphere.

Posted by samandmarta 13:58 Archived in French Polynesia Comments (0)

Oahu

The bustling capital of Honolulu


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We spent a mere 2½ days on Oahu, the most populated island of Hawaii. The decision was made because the island is supposed to be the most crowded and touristic. We would have probably skipped the island all together, if not for the fact that most international flights go in and out of Honolulu.

We got up early on our first day in Honolulu, to go to Pearl Harbor and see the Arizona Memorial, for which tickets are free but limited. When we arrived there, we learnt that we would have had to stand in line at 6am (the ticket office opens at 7am) to have a chance for a ticket. Instead, we went to see the USS Missouri, a giant battleship with a fascinating history. The Missouri was the last battleship of any navy in the world in active service (nowadays aircraft carriers have taken over). More significantly, on this very ship World War II was ended on September 2nd 1945 with the Japanese signing the surrender to the Allied Forces in Tokyo Bay.

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In the afternoon we went to the Diamond Head crater in the East of Honolulu to hike the short but steep trail to the summit. From there, we had a great view over Waikiki Bay and the Eastern Shore of Oahu.

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The next day, the weather was not on our side and we had to ditch our plan of exploring some beaches, as this is not much fun in pouring rain. We found that a nearby shopping center was offering free classes in various Hawaiian culture activities. So we spent the day learning to dance Hula, to give each other Lomilomi massages and to make Lei, the Polynesian flower necklaces. In four weeks in Hawaii no one has offered us a Lei, so at last we got one from each other.

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In the evening, we enjoyed the free firework display at Waikiki Beach, which was the closest we have gotten to a beach on Oahu, since the next day the weather only bettered when we had to leave for the airport.

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We spent a total of 29 nights in Hawaii and visited all four major islands. We were uncertain how to best split our time before coming here, but in retrospect we feel that we have done it exactly right. We spent 10 nights in Kaua’i, which we felt was the most interesting island with the most things to do. 9 nights we spent on the Big Island, which has great beaches for boogie boarding and the most active volcano. In Maui, we spent 7 nights. Maui has the calmest beaches, making it the best place to swim. The volcanic landscape of Haleakala is something we haven’t seen on the other islands and whale watching in winter is another good reason to come here. However, Maui is noticeably more touristic than the Big Island and Kaua’i and especially West Maui is very crowded. It’s a great place if you primarily look to spend time at the beach, but we felt that there are few other activities (unless you have a large wallet). We did not spend enough time in Oahu to make a fair judgment, but it seems there is little there you couldn’t see on the other islands and you will share your experiences with vastly more people.

On the 29th of December, we left Hawaii towards French Polynesia. We feel very lucky to be able to visit both of these beautiful places on the same trip.

Posted by samandmarta 10:25 Archived in USA Comments (0)

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